Mary Potter – the first hospice in NZ celebrates 40 years

mary potter

The first hospice to be established in New Zealand, Mary Potter hospice, this week celebrates its 40th anniversary.

It was established by the Little Company of Mary to provide free-of-charge palliative care to the people of Wellington, Porirua and Kāpiti.

Sister Margaret Lancaster, pictured above, helped establish Mary Potter Hospice 40 years ago. She remains a board member today.

She says setting up such a service wasn’t without its challenges, with people’s idea of dealing with dying to simply “put them in the corridor” or “out in the ground” and not talk about it.

The hospice began at Calvary Hospital in Wellington.

In 1988 the Little Company of Mary sold Calvary Hospital and gifted the Mary Potter Hospice to the people of Wellington as an independent non-sectarian charitable trust, the Mary Potter Foundation.

As part of the sale, the Sisters negotiated access to the hospital gardens and bought five houses on Florence Street.

However, there was little room for parking or further development, and some felt it was too close to the private hospital.

Fortunately, Ruth Gotlieb, a then-city councillor, found an “ideal site” in Mein St – a poorly used council park across the road from the hospital.

The sisters organised a land exchange with Wellington City Council to get the Mein St site. Construction on the new hospice started in December 1989 and it was officially opened in 1990.

Today services include the Inpatient Unit in Newtown and Day Hospices in Porirua and Kāpiti.

Maintaining a community focus, Hospice services are provided wherever people are – at home, in aged care or in the Inpatient Unit in Newtown. Volunteers remain essential to the life and vibrancy of all Hospice services and connect the Hospice back to communities.


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